On Emacs, if I type C-h, b a list of keybinds come up, including:

enter image description here

what is A- and how do I access it?

1 Answer 1


A- is the Alt modifier. Which, for clarity, is almost definitely not the key labelled 'Alt' on your keyboard -- that's recognised as the Meta modifier.

Most people simply don't have this modifier key. It's relatively common for people to configure Super and Hyper modifiers on modern keyboards but, probably on account of the potential for confusion, one doesn't tend to hear about people using the Alt modifier in Emacs these days. (It was useful on keyboards which had an 'Alt' key and a 'Meta' key, though.)

If you have a need, you can invoke the Alt modifier like so:


Followed by whichever key you wish to be modified. In your examples: *

Function key map translations Starting With C-x @:
key             binding
---             -------

C-x @ S         event-apply-shift-modifier
C-x @ a         event-apply-alt-modifier
C-x @ c         event-apply-control-modifier
C-x @ h         event-apply-hyper-modifier
C-x @ m         event-apply-meta-modifier
C-x @ s         event-apply-super-modifier
  • stackoverflow.com/a/27419718/324105 might also be useful reading regarding the event-apply-*-modifier functions.
    – phils
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 2:38
  • +1 for your answer. I would have never found this answer given a million guesses. In my kbd, I have the keys labelled Alt, Cntl, Win_key, Shift and Caps_lock. My Alt key behaves as the emacs's Meta key. Are there specific keyboards which have an additional Alt key?
    – Prasanna
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 5:59
  • @Prasanna Plenty of keyboards have two keys labelled "Alt" (one either side of the space bar, typically), but I think it unlikely that you'd find a keyboard with both a "Meta" key and an "Alt" key. Some old keyboard certainly had both, though. quora.com/… shows some examples. The 'space cadet' keyboard not only has an "Alt mode" key, but it even has "Alt lock".
    – phils
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 6:28
  • See also the top four entries of xahlee.info/kbd/lisp_keyboards.html
    – phils
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 6:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.